Wednesday 20 February 2013

Seeing is believing

Hi folks,
Chemical smog drifting over from China, a meteorite dropping out of the sky in Russia. Blimey. Maybe it's not so bad here after all. 

First, a bit of good news. An acquaintance of mine I haven't seen for a while surprised me with the news that they've just had a baby. They'd been putting off starting a family since the nuclear accident especially since they live in a part of Koriyama that's had high-ish levels of radiation. But they must have decided that it's safe. I'm very happy for them. Good to know that life goes on, regardless.

I often quote Wade Allison's book Radiation and Reason, the Impact of Science on a Culture of Fear. He believes that strict safety standards paradoxically increase the  fear of radiation and that the only way to reduce fear is through education from the bottom up. Here are two examples of that education in action. First, children in Fukushima are now receiving basic classes in radiation. They get 2-3 hours a year, primary schoolchildren in general studies, and junior high students in science lessons. The lessons started last year and are to be taught in all state schools in the prefecture from the new school year in April. It's not easy getting the right balance between giving them the basic knowledge and making them anxious. I hear that teachers from other areas are coming to observe lessons. It would be great if this could be rolled out across the country. Across the world?

And how about this piece on the local news tonight? Kawamata county which had the ban lifted last year, invited local people to come along and check out the radiation at a dump for the soil that's been collected in decontamination work. A special camera picks up the radiation and shows it in colour on a screen, so you see the view (in black and white) - and coloured areas where there's radiation. This is brilliant. For the invidious thing about radiation is that you can't see it and you can't smell it. It's an invisible enemy and that's what creates the fear. 

The residents were shown the radiation in the dump, spots of red and yellow here and there, then the dump was covered over with thick plastic and no radiation could be seen. Only 10% of inhabitants have returned to live in Kawamata since the ban was lifted last year so it's hoped this PR exercise will convince more of them to go back. The residents who were interviewed seemed impressed. Seeing is believing.
Good night
P.S. I've added something to the previous post Children if you want to take a look (about thyroids)

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